Happy Halloween

Isabella and I are off to a toddler Halloween party at the children's museum, then a trip to her grandma's and great aunt's houses so they can see her in her costume. The evening will conclude with a few house's worth of trick-or-treating, whereby the biggest draw will not be the candy, but the ringing of doorbells.
What are you doing to celebrate Halloween today?

Isabella at 26 Months

Isabella turned 26 months old over a week ago, but I've been a little busy spilling breastmilk all over the couch, tripping over slippers in the wee hours of the morning, and crying for no reason at all, so my firstborn's update post is late.

She seems to have grown up so much in the week I was in the hospital. My mom, who stayed with her while the hubs was holding a vomit tub under my chin for six straight days while covering his nose and desperately trying not to puke himself, has her performing various and sundry household chores, including helping her make coffee in the morning, and washing, tearing, and spinning lettuce for our salads. My two-year-old is suddenly 100 times more domestic than I am.

Isabella has always been a very sensitive kid who gets upset and sad when she sees others cry or in pain. I did not, however, think her emotions carried over to Charlie Brown Halloween specials. She watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" for the first time the other day and broke out into a full-fledged teary-eyed wail when Charlie went to kick the football and Lucy pulled it away at the last minute, sending Charlie flat on his back. So much for my planned airing of Saw 3 on Friday.

My daughter's vocabulary continues to grow, and she's using it to her advantage. With three adults living in my house right now, if she doesn't get what she wants from one of us, she'll say, "I better go ask mommy/daddy/grammy." She's also quite a skillful negotiator, asking for "two more minutes" before bedtime or naptime while holding up two fingers. And her compound sentences ("First I want to color and then I want to have a tea party") warm the cockles of her very tired mother's English major heart.

Isabella has seemingly adapted very well to the twins' arrival. She's been channelling her inner John McCain and referring to the twins as "that one" when we ask her which one is crying, which one is hungry, etc. She also refers to them as "baby brother" and "baby sister" more often than she does by their first names. When they cry, she tells me, "Give them the boobie. They need milk." She is, as she always has been, the perennial dictator.

One of the most gratifying sights is when I bring Luci or Nicholas into her room in the morning when she's ready to get up. She asks for them to be placed in her crib, and then she lays down next to them and talks to them in a special squeaky voice reserved just for her brother and sister, hugs them, and asks if it's okay to kiss them. She's enchanted by their tiny fingers, and always asks to see them. And it's moments like these that help assuage some of the guilt I feel for turning her world upside-down. I can see that she truly loves them, and since they're not currently able to grab at her toys or steal her favorite cribmate animal, they don't seem to be rocking her world too greatly.

I am so incredibly proud of the person she's becoming. She sometimes drives me ape-shit, up-the-wall crazy with her obstinate and stubborn behavior, but 95% of the time, she's an amazing little girl.

Current Likes: Salmon, raking leaves, her imaginary dog friend, "Baby Watson"

Current Dislikes: Napping

Update and "Name a Twin" Contest Results

Being home with the twins is fantastic. Their stays in the NICU were so short that we were only separated from them for a few days from the time I went home on Monday afternoon to when we went home with them on Thursday afternoon.

That said, while I was in the hospital, I felt a definite lack of connection with them. They didn't room in with me, which felt completely unnatural. I was so sick for the entire six days I was there that I rarely visited them in the NICU. I was pumping, but they were getting at least two or three formula-feedings a day because I couldn't keep up. I didn't even get to hold Luciana until she was two days old. I didn't feel bonded to them, but since they came home, it's gotten better.

Nursing premature twins is a challenge. Isabella was a great nurser right from the beginning, and these two are not, although Nicholas is better than Luciana. I can't nurse them both at once yet because they latch on and then fall off. They are pokey, and they fall asleep while nursing a lot. None of this would be a big deal except for the fact that they need to gain weight. We have weight checks at their pediatrician's once a week. I am dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding them for as long as I can, and I'm looking forward to the day when I can nurse them both at once to save time and get some additional sleep. Ah, sleep. I miss you, my friend.
They sleep a lot during the day. They are not so fond of sleeping at night. They've been getting up every three hours or so, and then begins the marathon of changing, feeding, burping, and rocking two babies back to sleep. My mom is staying with us for a month, so she's been a great help both with Isabella and in the middle of the night with the twins. Isabella doesn't hear a thing, since she sleeps with a sound machine in her room.
Luci and Nicholas are impossibly tiny. Isabella's newborn sleepers are gigantic on them. Even the few preemie outfits my grandma went out and bought are big on them. I've actually considered duct-taping the preemie/newborn diapers onto their bodies to help keep them in place. I know they'll grow quickly, but they seem so fragile and delicate right now, I'm certain I'll break one of their tiny chicken limbs while dressing them.

Oh, and the queen bee is adjusting quite well, and is immensely enjoying both the resurrection of her bouncy seat from the depths of the basement and the copious amounts of sugar her grandma's been slipping her.

Do you remember the contest I held back in June? The one where I asked you to interfere in my marital dispute regarding the name my youngest daughter whom I wanted to name Lucy and my husband did not? As it turns out, we selected a name one of you suggested.
The lovely Ness was the one to suggest Luciana. She said it went well with Isabella (and I agree) and both the hubs and I liked it better than my second-runner-up choice of Lucia.
Of course, it's not Lucy. And yes, I'm still bitter, in case you're wondering. But last Sunday night as I was writhing in agony on a stretcher in the Labor and Delivery Triage unit of the hospital (don't worry, that story is coming later this week) we decided we'd better settle on a girl's name after weeks of arguing. And our daughter officially became Luciana that night.
I promised a prize to the person who suggested the name we picked, so one is coming your way, Ness. Given that what's left of my creativity and ingenuity have eroded into a pile of sleep-deprived mush, if there's anything in particular you'd like from the States, do let me know.


After 8 days spent in the NICU and the NICU Annex, the twins came home yesterday afternoon! We didn't anticipate taking them home until at least Friday, and luckily we showed up with their car seats because they needed to sit in them for an hour and have their heart rates and oxygen levels measured. The nurses had wanted to get the car seat checks out of the way for their eventual discharge.
The NICU doctors rounded on them while we were there, and deemed them well enough to take home. So, with their cute "going home" outfits at home, and hospital undershirts on both their top and bottom halves, we loaded them up and took them home to meet their big sister.

We didn't take Isabella to the hospital to visit the twins. She visited me while I was there, but we opted not to take her to the NICU because we didn't want to frighten her, and we wanted her to meet her siblings for the first time in a more relaxed setting.
So yesterday, when we brought them through the door, Isabella was immediately intrigued, very interested, and surprisingly, very gentle. She wanted to hold them. She gingerly touched their feet. And then she got bored and wandered off to wash lettuce in the kitchen with my mom. Babies are boring to a toddler, apparently.
We were so concerned that Isabella would feel left out or dethroned, and we didn't see any signs of her feeling displaced. Of course, we were going out of our way to make her feel like queen for a day ("Are you sure you don't want a fourth cookie, Isabella, because you can totally have one if you want") and that won't last, but we have our fingers crossed.
Their first night home was bad. Very, very bad. They were on the boob and off the boob. They were awake more hours than they were asleep. They peed through numerous outfits and unswaddled themselves repeatedly. I'm hoping for a better night tonight.
We went for a pediatrician appointment this morning for a weight check, and Nicholas remained the same at 4.11 pounds, while Luci gained 3 oz, and now weighs 4.6 pounds. Other than being small, their doctor deemed them perfect. We have to keep sick visitors away because they're more susceptible to respiratory virus than full-term babies, but other than that, these little 34-weekers shouldn't have any additional problems.
And for that, we are immensely and incredibly grateful.

It's Sunny on Limbo Island

I came home from the hospital yesterday feeling almost human again for the first time in over a week. My liver issue has apparently resolved itself, and other than c-section pain and discomfort and feeling wiped out, I'm doing well. Oh, and that liver issue? My OB sat on the edge of my bed the day after the twins were born and said to me, "Acute fatty liver of pregnancy is fatal. We're extremely lucky to have caught it so early."

Well. Okay then.

We left the twins in the NICU last night. The NICU is a strange and terrifying and amazing place. One day I will put into words what it felt like to have your babies' very lives placed in the hands of medical professionals and modern science and to have to trust that they will take care of the most precious thing in your world.

When we arrived this morning, we were so excited and totally surprised so see that they were packing up Luci and Nicholas and moving them out! No more monitors or IVs or phototherapy lamps to combat the jaundice they had developed. They needed the room in the NICU for "sicker babies" so the twins were transferred to the NICU Annex/Newborn Nursery, which is basically the final step before they are sent home.

And they could be home as soon as Friday!

They need to gain weight (currently Luci is 4.4 pounds and Nicholas is 4.11 pounds), maintain their body temperatures in open cribs, and then they're ours to take home.

Considering the first NICU nurse I spoke to in my drug-induced, nauseous, and miserably upset state on the night of their birth told me they wouldn't be home until their due date (November 23rd), this is incredible news indeed. We are lucky and blessed beyond words. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all your good thoughts and prayers.

I'll give you all the gory details of their birth and the circumstances that led to their early delivery soon. But for now, more photos, these taken yesterday.



Nicholas and Luciana

Thanks for all the sweet congratulatory wishes. The twins are doing as well as can be expected in the NICU. They are both breathing on their own, without the help of the breathing machine. There are milestones, and there are setbacks.

I've not been good at all. I am still in the hospital and will be here through Sunday at least. I haven't yet held my daughter and it's been 48 hours since their birth. I have basically enjoyed one good hour each day since last Friday. The rest of the time I've been in a lot of pain, throwing up, feeling like I need to throw up, or so drained of energy that lifting a cup takes tremendous effort. The problems are the result of my intolerance to pain meds plus the residual effects of acute fatty liver of pregnancy, the condition that led to the twins' early delivery in the first place.

I'll stop blathering now, because I know all you want is the photos. Here are a few to tide you over until I can post some better ones.

This is Lucy.


4 pounds, 9oz

This is Nicholas


5 pounds, 2 oz.

They're here!

This is Jenny, a friend of Kristi's - as a guest poster.

I am privileged, excited, and relieved to announce the arrival of Luciana and Nicholas!!

That's right - the twins have arrived! They made their way into the world today shortly after 3pm. Luci (or will it be Lucy?) is 4.9 lbs and her brother, Nicholas is 5.2 lbs.

The arrival of the twins followed a rough weekend of complications for Kristi that had her in the hospital over the weekend, home for Tuesday afternoon, and back at the hospital between last night and this morning. This morning the doctors decided it was time for the babies to come out - and so they did. Everyone is doing ok, but Kristi said she is still in a bit of pain. Hopefully pain meds will help out with that quickly. The babies are in the hospital's NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) - due to some difficulty with breathing on their own. Kristi sounded pretty tired the couple times I talked to her, but did say that they are all doing ok. I don't have many more details right now, but Kristi said she'll be online in the next couple days to share more details. I'll be seeing them tomorrow and I'll try to add pictures tomorrow night unless Kristi is able to get them here first.

Welcome Luciana and Nicholas! I can't wait to meet you!
Congratulations, Kristi, Rich, and big sister - Isabella!


It's been more than a handful of times over the past eight months that I've been able to convince myself that I'm only pregnant with one baby.

I've had just short of eleventeen-hundred ultrasounds in which I've seen 2D photographic proof of the presence of two babies (not one). I've had 14,000 OB visits in which I have heard two distinct and varied heartbeats on my OB's doppler. I've had three NSTs in which two monitors (not one) were placed on my belly to monitor the activity of two babies (not one).

I'm also gargantuan, or at least quite a bit larger right now than I was at the end of my singleton pregnancy.

Yet in my mind I can somehow hear my OB's voice, muffled from behind the OR tarp, telling me while performing my C-section that she was wrong. That I was never having twins. That I instead have one healthy baby.

I have serious concerns about my ability to handle what's happening.

I am panicking and afraid and still (still) in denial.

And I have just a few short weeks to get my shit together.

The World According to Grandma

My grandma and I formed a very tight bond very early on. Her mother, my great-grandmother after whom Isabella received her middle name (Carmelina), had passed away a year prior to my birth and she was still deeply in mourning. My mom always used to tell me that when I was born, my grandmother's spark returned. Starting before I was two, I would much prefer to be at grandma's house, where I didn't have to share the spotlight with my infant sister. Up until I entered high school, I would spend most weekends with her, and she would give me anything I wanted, all of the time. I had it damn good at grandma's.

At 78, my grandma is still the heart and soul of our large family: always there when you need her, the host and chef for all holiday gatherings, and an incredible caretaker for Isabella, especially now, when I'm basically just a 400-pound blob, gestating on the couch all day long.

But grandma's also just a wee bit batshit crazy.

Longtime readers might remember Grandma's Rules for Infant-Rearin'. In summary, they include bundling babies in 14 layers of clothing, covering their hands until they're six, and my personal favorite: never, EVER leave the house with a baby under the age of 2 because the germs WILL KILL HER.

Well, grandma's back with another rule, and this time it's for toddlers. We engaged in a restrained exchange of words the other day regarding the onset of Isabella's most recent cold.

Apparently, my darling daughter is sick with a cold because I am a bad, bad mother. You see, I take her to a gym class at my town's rec center every Thursday. It's basically a gym filled with climbing mats, huge blocks, playhouses, balls, trains, and other assorted toys. Isabella and I, along with two mom friends and their daughters, have been attending this class for over a year now, and Isabella loves it. Grandma has accompanied me there for the past two weeks, since she's been spending a lot of time at my house lately watching Isabella while I busy myself by taking up space.

Upon informing her that Isabella had a cold, grandma let me know that it's my fault because I take her to places like her gym class and storytime at the library where there are kids with colds and running noses and communicable diseases leeching from their pores.

I then asked her if I should keep Isabella locked indoors like a cloistered nun for the entire span of cold season (October through April) and she said yes.

And she was not kidding.

She said I should take her for walks, let her play in her backyard, etc., but that there was no need for her to interact with other children. She said this in spite of the fact that she witnessed Isabella having an awesome time at her gym class. We have a very small house. The gym offers her a place to run and scream and act two in a completely safe and enclosed environment, not to mention the fact that chasing Isabella around outside in my yard and preventing her from hurling herself into traffic isn't exactly something I'm up to doing right now. I'm lucky I can walk from my bedroom to the bathroom without stopping for oxygen.

I told her this, and she did not care. For you see, I have exposed my precious bundle to germs, and this simply cannot be forgiven.

I may stay home with Isabella, but we do not stay home. Sure, there are days when we don't go anywhere (especially now), but unless she's vomiting blood or running a 150-degree temperature, we both benefit from getting out of the damn house. Not to mention the fact that exposure to germs boosts her immunity.

Grandma disapproves of a lot of the things I do with Isabella, and it's her prerogative to do so. She comes from a different generation, and I get that.

But I didn't raise a Bubble Baby and I'm not about to start now. After all, she could catch a cold without ever leaving the house, which had happened many times.

And kids get sick, right? It's right up there on their list of priorities alongside eating dirt and jumping off the couch.

I'm only two years into this parenting gig. I see many a cagefight in grandma's and my future.

Natural versus Synthetic Twins

During my NST last week, the very nice and very chatty woman administering my test was talking my ear off. Did I have names for the twins? What were they? Oh, I'm still stuck on the girl's name? Did I like Chloe? How about Jennifer? No one names their girls Jennifer anymore.

Then, out of the blue, she asks me, "So, are these natural twins?"

I knew exactly what she meant. She wanted to know if my twins were spontaneous twins (meaning, they were conceived in my bed with sex and candles and too much red wine) or if they were the product of infertility treatment. Synthetic, or artificial, twins, if you will.

And the question pissed me off.

I may later chalk this up to hormones and the fact that I feel like utter crap lately, but the question struck me as deeply personal and none of her damn business. I know she didn't mean to be rude and probably never gave a second thought to the fact that she was essentially asking me if I had sex to conceive my twins. Other acquaintances have asked me this question before as well, but it's always been in the form of: "Do twins run in your family?", which is far more benign and doesn't warrant a discussion of my sex life (or in the case of my twins, the lack thereof). To the latter question, I simply respond "no," and the individual can take whatever they choose from that answer.

It's not as if I was extremely private about going through IVF with Isabella. Even though I kept my family in the dark the entire time due to their religious beliefs and the fact that I didn't want them up in my business (literally) the entire time we were going through treatment, I was open with everyone else about what we were doing. And I've been open with people since her birth as well. If the topic comes up, I have no problem disclosing that she's here because of IVF.

But the "Are they natural twins?" question seems to imply judgment or at the very least, a curiosity about something too personal to discuss. There's also the implication, with her selection of the word, "natural" that there's something unnatural or wrong about twins conceived beyond the bedroom, say, for example, in a dish, as mine were. The twin population in this country is exploding because of infertility treatment. Perhaps it's because I've been entrenched in the IF world for so long now, but I tend to think all the twins I see are IF twins.

I've lived through the IF rollercoaster, and as a result, it would never occur to me to ask a couple either when they planned on having a baby or if their multiples were the result of treatment. These are questions people casually ask all the time, but the answers and the reasons behind them can be filled with heartache.

Instead of coming up with a pithy answer, I told her no, they weren't "natural twins." That they were FET twins.

Ms. Chatty Cathy didn't have much to say to me after that point.

Perhaps the idea of my lab-concocted, robot twins scared her.

A Memo to Sarah Palin

Following last night's debate performance by Sarah "Joe Sixpack" Palin, I thought I owed it to her to offer up a few ways she could garner a bit of favor in future interviews with her critics- you know, the "mainstream, elite media" who are clearly responsible for painting her as an intellectual lightweight through no fault of her own.

1. Don't wink at the camera. It doesn't make us like you more. It makes us like you less.

2. Using folksy, down-home language such as "darn right" and "doggone it" might appeal to the 1% of the viewing public who still give George W. Bush a favorable opinion rating. To the rest of us, it's grating and annoying and completely un(vice) presidential.

3. When a debate moderator or an interviewer asks you a question, answer it. Don't in essence declare that you could give a rat's arse what question the moderator asks you because you're going to recite your talking points "directly to the American public." We have the right to know where you and your running mate stand on the issues. Scripted and coached answers unrelated to the topic at hand don't cut it.

4. You may want to avoid stating that you believe the office of the Vice President should have more power than it already does. That kind of talk scares people. Americans have lived through 8 years of Dick Cheney's evil empire. We don't want a rerun.

5. If you're running on a platform of "change" and "country first," it might have been a good idea to differentiate your ticket's policies from those of the current administration. Most Americans aren't happy with the direction of the country, and you offered nothing to make us believe things would be any different in a McCain/Palin administration.

What did you think of last night's debate?

Slacker Baking

I was once a pretty decent baker. I baked a lot. Almost every weekend, I was making either muffins or cookies or a cake.

While I still make all the desserts for the holiday dinners with my extended family (although I think I'll take this Thanksgiving off), I haven't baked anything for our little (soon-to-be not-so-little) family in a very long time.
And now, I just don't have the energy. There are days when standing up takes a monumental effort, and slicing a brick of cheese takes strength I just don't have.

But one of the things I most looked forward to when I learned I was pregnant the first time was baking with my child(ren). I wanted to share my love of baking with them, and what kid doesn't like to bake? At two years old, Isabella is at a great age to start participating.
She does make pancakes or waffles with her dad most weekends. The blueberry pancakes they made last week were a big hit.

But other than the past two Christmases where I've made cookies with Isabella, we haven't done much baking together.
Until I discovered this miracle baking product: the "Break and Bake" cookie. And I think it's tailor-made for baking slackers like me.

Making these cookies takes about as much effort as brushing your teeth. Open the package, break off the precut cookies from the sheet, stick them on a cookie sheet, and slide the sheets into the oven.

Isabella took her cookie-arranging job very seriously.

The hardest part about making these cookies is getting your two-year-old to wait quietly for 15 minutes until they're done. She wanted cookies and she wanted them now.

Luckily, there was a sweet reward at the end.

Hopefully Isabella won't grow up thinking that "break and bake" is how mommy makes cookies, since baking is so important to me and I really want to share the fun with her.

But while I'm on modified bedrest and too exhausted to lift a fork most of the time, this slacker method will do for now.

The October issue of Root and Sprout, the online parenting magazine, is now live. Remember, Melissa Garrett, who created and runs Root and Sprout, would love to have you (yes, YOU) write an article. Check out the writer's guidelines for more information.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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